Last I checked (in the mirror), there were fat guys in the world. We’re not hard to spot, but somehow we’re still managing to be ignored.
In fact, in a culture that’s specifically focusing on improving body image and combating body-shaming, fat guys seem to be shuffling under the radar.
I understand that body-shaming is a problem, and I understand that women are most negatively affected by it. I understand and agree that we need to take measures to correct body image issues. I just don’t understand why we need to limit that correction to only women.
No one is arguing that there is more societal pressure for women to conform to certain body types; I’ve written about it myself, in fact. There is, however, an active and ongoing effort to rectify that. For instance, some stores like Target are currently deploying female mannequins of varying body types.
Score one for women, right? I mean, that’s an enlightened and accepting approach. Some women are curvy. Some women are tall or petite. At times, some women are even pregnant (not that pregnant is a “body-type”, per se). Appropriately, there are mannequins to represent all of these.
We’ve struck a significant blow against ideal weight pressure by landing full-figured women on magazine covers and fashion runways; the holy grails of image acceptance. Comedians like Amy Schumer are making entire movies about the way society treats women who aren’t waifishly thin.
Does the importance of body-type acceptance and self image not transcend gender, though? Just because women are more subject to body image pressure doesn’t mean they’re exclusively subject to it. Our young men who struggle with weight during their formative years could use a more realistic representation of men, too.
Being an overweight guy, I’ve been aware of the discrepancy for some time now. I noticed that beside the magazine covers celebrating the full-figured female models, the only male magazine cover models had six-pack abs and those pelvic v-lines I’ve heard so much about. No one’s celebrating the beauty of the stocky, bald man.
At least on the surface, men do seem less affected by the lack of representation, though, so I let it go. Plus, there was the brief conversation a few years back during which it was generally agreed that the “Dad-Bod” was at least passably acceptable in certain situations. I did appreciate that, even if it was only lip-service.
The other day while at Target, though, I was in the middle of verbally praising how progressive and inclusive it was of them to include female mannequins of varying body types when we happened to transition into the men’s section. Welcome to the land of olympic-level dummies.
It almost seems like someone would have had to have actively decided against making and/or buying differently shaped male mannequins. Certainly it wasn’t that it just never occurred to anyone during the entire process of envisioning, creating, selling, and purchasing different sizes of female mannequins that the same could also be done for men.
So what gives, society? Are the only groups who deserve sensitivity, acceptance, and inclusion the groups who are the very most historically and egregiously affected by the absence of such things? It seems curiously limiting not to extend such consideration to everyone.
It’s not a matter of co-opting a problematic social issue; it’s a matter of encouraging mental health and societal acceptance universally.
It was brought to my attention while writing this article that the toy company Mattel had also recently made the decision to begin manufacturing curvy, tall, and petite body-styles for its female Barbie dolls. Ken and the other male dolls, it appears, will maintain their swimmers’ bodies.
Now, I understand that Mattel’s target audience for Barbie dolls of any gender is young girls (don’t even get me started). Even if we take that as a given, though, isn’t it still important that we not impress upon young women that the male body has only one acceptable stature?
There are very few places in which we’re promoting the acceptance of varied male body image, and certainly none of them are the areas that we collectively agreed were the most important when it came to women.
We’re expecting that young boys who struggle with their weight somehow won’t be discouraged or won’t become unhealthily obsessed achieving the male body images with which they are consistently bombarded. We’re expecting that other young boys who don’t face the same challenges won’t assume that it’s okay to bully heavier boys for looking different than the popular representation.
We’re assuming that young women will inexplicably understand that men of less than Adonis-like body types should still be similarly valued and may still have plenty to offer. We assume this even though we didn’t believe they would feel this about themselves or that boys would feel this about them if we didn’t change the popular representation of females.
There’s no escaping the fact that our society puts more pressure on women to meet certain restrictive physical standards, and the statistics seem to suggest that young women are more obviously and significantly affected. However, it seems that if the overarching goal is to create an atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable and free to accept their own bodies, we should be making more of an effort to actually include everyone. That seems especially obvious when the effort is already underway for one group.